"Your Success Today Could Be Your Failure Tomorrow"

Your Success Today Could Be Your Failure Tomorrow

Mexico’s artistic genius Willy Sousa on filmmaking, the rise to fame and the video that changed his life (and his nation)

As Mexico celebrates the last month of its Year of Tourism to honour its culture, traditions and population, the work of an artist determined to go above and beyond the realms of creativity continues to influence thousands of people from around the world; Mexican filmmaker Willy Sousa is the heart and soul of a project that has transcended international frontiers and will forever change the face of Mexico in the world. ‘Mexico in your Senses’ is a moving 7 minutes video aimed at promoting the Mexican culture and way of life through a hypnotising spectacle of music, imagery and quality directing, now part of an exhibition which has toured 8 countries around the world.

After being projected for the first time in March 2010 in the Monumental Itinerant Museum Mexico in your Senses, the video has now been screened in front of more than 10 million people, turning it into the most visited museum in the country by one single artist alone.

Mr Sousa said: “The video was inaugurated at one of the largest plazas in the world, the Zocalo of Mexico City, and was the first major event to inaugurate the Bicentennial Independence and Centennial Revolution celebrations in Mexico. Its main objective and that of the photography exposition displayed in the museum is to strengthen the identity and sense of belonging towards our country, to work as a mirror to Mexicans and as a window that opens before the eyes of foreigners to allow them to get to know us and identify with this great nation.”

The film won countless recognitions at international film festivals around the world, including the Das Goldene Stadttor Festival in Germany, the Tour Film in Brazil, the US International FTour Filmilm and Video Festival in America and the Film Art and Tourism Festival in Poland, before being honoured as Best International Promotional Tourism Video by the International Committee of Tourism Film Festivals (CIFFT) in Vienna last month.

Following its success, it initiated a world tour to several cities in the US and Canada, as well as forming part of the Mexican Pavilion at the Universal Expo in Shanghai.

The opportunities that arose from this award, however, reached further that Sousa had ever imagined, advertising the beauty of the country as well as his work as a film producer.

A living example of this is the offering we received on behalf of the Prince of Saudi Arabia, who invited us personally to create a promotional video of his Kingdom just by seeing the video we did for Mexico. This was a truly great honour for us,” he said.

For Willy Sousa, however, working hard and achieving recognition is only part of his success: “I believe that receiving these awards comes second place; they signify recognition for what one has done, but not for what he will continue to do, for which the effort will have to double to maintain the position he has achieved."

A good friend once told me that you are only as good as the last project you have done, and he is very right; one can be successful today but his work may not be as valued anymore tomorrow – historical memory is very scarce during these times.”

Being challenged and having the opportunity to challenge others has always been a great gift for Sousa, but not always a very clear one.

A 27-year-old DJ with few responsibilities and great ‘spiritual emptiness’, Sousa’s career took off to a tricky start.

My passion for filmmaking and imagery began with my discovery of photography; in a trip to Cordoba 25 years ago for a friend’s wedding, I took a bunch of photographs which revealed a hidden talent, and ever since I found myself photographing everything I observed through my surroundings."

Later on I got the opportunity to work for WFM, a famous radio station in Mexico, alongside the now Film Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, with whom I was given the opportunity to launch several TV commercials that encouraged me to take on my current career.”

Nevertheless, even when the money began rolling in, Sousa continued to feel unfulfilled.

He explained: “When I was 25 I had a strong encounter with my identity; I had an accelerated train of life as a DJ and was a young man with money, fun, few responsibilities, and yet a great spiritual emptiness."

At 27 I had a personal fallout and in my despair to find a true vocation in life I was about to start several businesses including a party room for children, a chain of laundry shops and a drycleaners – with a desire to search for a new way of life, I ended up turning to a psychologist, a humanist friend who helped me in my search and who opened my eyes to what it really was that I wanted to do."

I had it clear ever since: I liked creativity.”

Now a successful filmmaker and founder of Industria Film Studios in Mexico, Sousa pointed out that his biggest award to this day is being able to enjoy his job on a daily basis while continuously looking to improve on his successes.

He said: “Enjoying what I do is what gives me life and makes me feel like a child who is rewarded for doing what he likes most: playing!"

There was great recognition for the Museum Mexico in your Senses, and I didn’t quite understand what was happening at the time; seeing people cry of emotion, being surrounded by others who wanted to touch you and ask for your autograph while you being splattered with holy water is something I still can’t explain, despite it being one of the biggest recognitions of my career."

Nevertheless, I know that when this project finishes I will have great satisfaction but with it this big emptiness as well, for which one must understand that the concept of success is relative and we must be dependent on perseverance and hard work at all times.”

His deep passion for everyday life and his sensitivity to the emotions of those around him are without doubt key to his success, unravelling a creative potential only very few people are able to sustain.
It is a quality, however, that develops with time.

In my adolescence I had great anger to life; I woke up in automatic and lived this way, until I started to look more deeply inside of me and through this daily exercise I gained the capacity to observe what was outside of me as well; waking up every morning and feeling alive, touching my face, eating, knowing that I breathe – all of this self-consciousness is where my creative process generates and fills me with life."

The projects that are born with great sensitivity and intelligence are the reflection of the necessity we have as humans to belong and to open ourselves on a daily basis to the world around us; this is how films are born, with stories that are able to drag you away from your everyday state and transport you to different worlds.”

The people around him make up a huge part of his creative process – especially those who are able to provoke emotions.

He further explains: “Human encounters are my main source of inspiration, hard working people who constantly fight for their desires, their dreams and who put all their effort into their work; my mother is a great inspiration – she is a single mother and since she was very young she has worked for her family to progress in life and has achieved many things, from living in a small and modest neighbourhood selling gelatines for money to becoming director of a multinational company in Mexico."

The complexity of life inspires me too, for it is there we find all major life teachings in life; I started out in advertising and filmmaking because one day I overheard a film director say that when someone is in this type of industry anything can happen because everything is possible, and every day I work the biggest challenge is discovering that it really is.”

Usual work days for Sousa are divided into two types: the everyday and the creation.

The everyday is the one I enjoy least but the one necessary to nail down a creative process; I deal with logistics to production, administrative problem-solving, generating strategies for the company which imply many headaches and which tend to alienate me from my creative self."

However, on the day of creativity I feel most useful; the creative process finds you out of the office, in the mentally and psychically free open spaces which can be found at one’s home, watching your children play for example – on top of that, the moments of solitude are also very important, especially when you are made conscious of the fact that you aren’t alone but with one’s own self.”

Sousa continued to explain that a day of filming can be either very frustrating or very enriching, depending on a variety of circumstances which span from the weather conditions to the technical orders.

He goes on to explain: “There are no two days of filming that are perfect, however many times when you think it all went bad, at the end you see the work you created and value how complex each shot was and the great effort put in from all the team.”

Eventually, every successful business man wants to leave a mark on the industry he has helped shape, and this is no less important for Sousa himself.

In the history of filmmaking, no one can imagine the 20s without Charles Chaplin or the Mexican Revolution without Pancho Villa; for me, it is very important to know that I am contributing towards the first stock of the first decade of the 21st Century, and it is an honour that the work we do is making a space for itself, generating recognition and great emotion for the people who view it."

This is how I want it to be portrayed, as something that existed and influenced this century.”

When it comes to giving advice to young professionals and budding artists looking to follow in his path, Sousa reveals his own secret method to success, the ‘Willy Sousa Method’; a method of creation for which he describes there to be ‘no identical parameters’.

Three words lie at the very base of this process: passion, love and lots of dedication. 4

He said: “When one enjoys what they do, when one puts their heart into the job, all the universe conspires for everything to work out in their favour; always do what pleases you, leave aside what does not belong and take what is yours to own – that is what has drawn the success into my career.

Looking to the future, Sousa plans to focus more deeply on his production company Industria Film Studios, growing and renovating its film and photography stock to keep up with the fast-changing development and growth of the tourism industry.

Industria Film Studios is heading towards diversification, not only to make the best tourism video, but also to help other countries and regions unfold their tourism potential through the promotion of campaigns created with methods of communication, market-focus and specific target audiences."

There are also processes and financial plans to have a permanent place for the museum which can forever symbolise the love and respect for our country - for if we as citizens do not strengthen our sense of belonging, the county will lose its identity.”

Armed with a heartfelt passion for Mexico and the mind of an artistic genius, Sousa belongs to a category of filmmakers set to challenge the limits of what is technically and creatively possible in their industry, testing the working minds of those who have left their mark already and those lucky few who are yet to follow.

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